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Chess Match: 'Pen moves pivotal

Chess Match: 'Pen moves pivotal

PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers came into the National League Championship Series with a perceived advantage in the bullpen.

That advantage was put to the test in Game 4 on Monday. For the first time in four games, the Dodgers' starting pitcher left the game with the lead. He did so with one out in the sixth inning with a one-run lead.

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That meant manager Joe Torre had to call upon four relievers to hold onto that lead through 11 outs and how he navigated that tricky course proved decisive to the outcome.

He came up one out short.

Blanton stays in game
The situation:
The Phillies trailed, 3-2, when Carlos Ruiz drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the fifth. That brought up pitcher Joe Blanton, who had allowed three runs in his last two innings.


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The decision: Manager Charlie Manuel let Blanton hit and he grounded into a force play to end the inning.

The outcome: Blanton pitched just one more inning and gave up an unearned run in the sixth on a throwing error by third baseman Pedro Feliz and a pair of bloop singles by Ronnie Belliard and Casey Blake. Then Manuel turned it over to the bullpen.

The analysis: "I thought Blanton pitched well as far as he went and then our bullpen did a tremendous job." -- Manuel

Torre goes to the bullpen
The situation:
The Dodgers, with starter Randy Wolf on the mound, led 4-2 going into the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Shane Victorino tripled and scored on a single by Chase Utley. Wolf then walked Ryan Howard.


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The decision: Torre decided to go to the bullpen. He had right-hander Ronald Belisario ready for Jayson Werth and left-hander Hong Chih Kuo for Raul Ibanez.

The outcome: Belisario was able to get Werth to hit a weak grounder to third and the Phillies were able to get a force at second. With runners at the corners, Ibanez hit a rocket off Kuo to left but Manny Ramirez came in and snagged the ball just before it fell in for the third out of the inning. Kuo then pitched a scoreless seventh.

The analysis: "We sort of stretched it a little bit because we normally don't go to Kuo in the sixth. But he for the first time all year came back and pitched that next inning and I thought that was really a key for us to do that." -- Torre

Calling on Broxton early
The situation:
The Dodgers were still up, 4-3, with one out in the bottom of the eighth. But left-handed reliever George Sherrill hit Victorino and walked Utley. Sherrill then struck out Howard, bringing up Werth.


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The decision: Torre, even with two outs in the eighth, went with Broxton for the righty-vs.-righty matchup. Broxton had six saves of more than one inning in the regular season, plus one more in the playoffs.

The outcome: Broxton got Werth to fly out to end the inning, but then let the game slip away by giving up a two-out, two-run double to Jimmy Rollins in the bottom of the ninth.

The analysis: "We knew once we got to the eighth inning that Brox, when it got to Werth, that was going to be his man." -- Torre

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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